Problems of Plastic Surgery: Advertisement


Recently, I downloaded a famous plastic surgery app called the “강남 언니 Gangnam-Unni,”

which is one of the most popular and trending social networking app for those interested in plastic surgery.

Downloading this app fully immersed me in a community where people share the latest trends in non-invasive procedures, the best doctor for the double eyelid surgery, their own “authentic” reviews after the surgery, and some vivid surgical anecdotes from hundreds and thousands of users.

One common objective shared by all the users is that most were looking for a change in their face.


Cell phone

7AM: Bzzz… Bzzz

The phone notification alarm goes off and I wake up to check if it is anything of importance.

“Limited time only: Spring special sale! A-must-have slim v-line procedure for $300”

“Tired of your shapeless nose? Consider the new High Nose filler injection”

“30% to all Gangnam Unni Users: Today is Liposuction day”


This is another form of SNS with ads focused on plastic surgery and non-invasive procedures. There is a “Live Chat with the Plastic Surgeon and Consultant” as well as a review page for all participating plastic surgery clinics. Users post their own before and after photos where you can drag an arrow to expose the “before” photo and almost gape in awe for the dramatic change.

In the “Free Post” section, one can find numerous commentaries on how they are looking to get rid of the sagging fat under their chin or how they wish they had bigger and wider eyes.,. or a smaller nose to be just satisfied with their appearance.

Some ask for recommendations: “I think my eyes are too small. What surgeries do you guys recommend?”


public transportation: Subway bus train taxi


After being bombarded with ads at 7AM on a mobile-friendly platform, what’s more is the endless plastic surgery clinic ads on the way to school or work. Frankly speaking, the sleek models with their pretty faces are hard to miss even on a busy morning train. Walking down the staircase and through the ticketing booth, most commuters are unconsciously exposed to these conspicuous ads displayed on bright LED screens.


Sadly, it is not just the constant exposure to the “beautiful” and “attractive” faces, but also the demeaning and uncomfortable messages behind these ads for an “attention grabber”


“Small eyes and low nose and chubbiness is only cute when you are an infant”

Ad on a subway
Plastic surgery ad

“Beauty is all you need”

Of course, there are some indirect messages, too.

This one implies getting a v-line surgery will smoothen the jawline, which is indicated by the change in the outline of the face mask.

plastic surgery ads
plastic surgery ad

And… some uncomfortably clever ones.


Ads for clinics and hospitals providing plastic surgery will be banned from Seoul Metro stations by 2022.




The major problem with these ads is the provocative commentaries and images they portray in order to grab people’s attention. The before and after photos do portray the dramatical changes one could go through after getting a plastic surgery. However, it is another way of communicating that “The before is ugly or unacceptable to the current beauty standards. The after is pretty and is what we should aspire to look like.” Often times, we find the models smiling in their after photos, suggesting that they are now satisfied with their faces after adjusting their appearance to the latest trends: slim jawline, big and round eyes, and a small, defined nose.

Another issue is the constant publicity of artificial beauty standards. People casually walking through these ads might not be aware of the fact that they are glimpsing through hundreds of “beautiful” photos that are in reality, unrealistic and manufactured. After such disclosure to these images, it is very likely that they too start comparing themselves to the new standards, and slowly build dissatisfaction with their own faces.

Comparison leads to dissatisfactions, which ultimately leads to rejection, self-revulsion, and self-loathing.

And thus, plastic surgeons are psychiatrists with knives


A combat

plastic surgery park won soon

The Seoul city mayor Park Won-soon posted on Facebook, claiming the need to reduce plastic surgery ads in public.

“I have directed [the authority in charge] to refrain from such prevalent plastic surgery ads in subways and on buses. It is painful to see those ads. It is plastic surgery pollution. We have many tourists in Seoul.”


To an advertisement claiming “Beauty is not all you need. We treat your face as a human being, not as a doll,” the Korean Women’s Rights Society placed multiple Post-it notes written, “Stop talking about looks!”

plastic surgery ad

The image on the right: “Are you married? Do you have a special someone? Then try this fat burning pill ….”

The image on the bottom left: “Will turn you from Shin Bong-Sun (a Korean female comedian) to IU (a Korean singer) after this guitar lesson”

Again, the Post-it note covers these ads and says,

“It is not funny.”

the backlash

While there is an increased awareness to change the current plastic surgery trends in Korea, there is a growing mockery towards those who did have plastic surgery, ridiculing them as “clones” or “plastic surgery monsters.”

Korean SNL mocking that those who had plastic surgeries look the same

Korean SNL mocking that those who had plastic surgeries look the same

성괴(Sung-gueo) is a word short for 성형 괴물, which translates to “plastic surgery monster.”

Another derogatory term similar to 성괴 is “Gangnam beauty.” Because Gangnam is the mecca of over 450 plastic surgery clinics and aesthetic practices, it is the symbol of plastic surgery, also pointing to those who had the same eye surgery, the same nose job, the same lip injection, the same full face botox, and the same jawline smoothening procedures.

The same students who have been constantly reminded of the beauty standards and how their current “Korean-ness” do not match the present society’s perception of beauty are now named “monsters” and criticized for meeting the standards… The irony is that getting plastic surgery is suggested but not to the extent to which you look like everyone else from Gangnam… It has to be just right, not too much or too little.


In the next series of “The Death of Korean Beauty,” there will be a continuation of The Problems of Plastic Surgery: the Entertainment Industry.

The death of Korean Beauty

Problems of Plastic Surgey: Advertisement